Teaching mathematics for social justice : An action research study

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy in Education


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi


Mathematics is an integral part of our daily lives therefore, it has the potential to be used for highlighting and solving issues related to social justice in society. However, it has been observed that mathematics lessons usually focus on factual recall and procedural fluency, which do not promote students’ capability of using mathematics for critical analysis of societal practices and prepare them for social change. Therefore, globally schools are making efforts to shift the paradigm from procedural mathematics teaching to mathematics for social justice pedagogy. Teaching mathematical knowledge for social justice is a pedagogy that uses mathematics as a tool to help students to understand the issues concerning power, resource distribution, and disparate opportunities between different social groups. Like other countries, Pakistan is also viewing education as a prerequisite for fighting poverty, improving living standards, and eliminating all forms of discrimination. These purposes of education can be better achieved through developing a sense of social issues among students. And mathematics is the best subject to be taught with the pedagogy of social justice. Therefore, this action research aims to explore the possibility of (using mathematics to generate discussion on issues of social justice) integrating the concepts of social justice (socio-cultural and gender inequality) in teaching mathematics in Grade 8 in a government school (adopted by a private organization) located in Karachi, Pakistan.
The research participants involved in this study were grade 8 female students and one regular mathematics teacher. The data were gathered through various sources such as interviews with the teacher, FGDs with students, reflective journals, classroom observation, students’ work and voices, and critical friend’s feedback.
After a rigorous reconnaissance stage, this study was carried out in three action research cycles, which includes 8 lessons. The lessons incorporated a range of mathematical concepts such as percentage, fraction, and decimal that were embedded in the topics of social justice of inequality (gender and social class). Activities used in the lesson engaged students in discussion, debate, and thinking to explore alternatives to address inequalities prevalent in society. The findings demonstrate the development in students’ engagement and learning when they learn mathematics through the integration of social justice topics. The pedagogy allows students to explore mathematics beyond the classroom, develop an understanding of mathematics skills by working with decimal, fraction, and percentage, and acquire the knowledge to become critical individuals. Moreover, findings also indicate that integrating social justice issues into mathematics affected students’ in developing awareness about social inequality and a sense of social agency. The study also presented various challenges that can be encounter in Teaching mathematics for social justice, which include; shortage of time, resources (human, infrastructural, and others), and lack of collaborative environment for planning and developing resources for implementing critical pedagogy in the classroom.

This document is available in the relevant AKU library